kindness activist

kindness activist

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Homeless or Houseless? Kindness Yard Sale Accounting Update

Here is an update (and some inspiration!) on how Kindness Yard Sale funds have been used recently:

This evening I was outside on the front porch, STILL trying to arrange left-over items from the Kindness Yard Sale (the task that never ends, but I enjoy).  A man rolling a large duffle bag suitcase walked up.  His had a huge smile on his face as he approached.  He said he was here to thank me for the pantry.  He had gotten food out of it before, he explained, took it across the street, sat down and had a meal.  His gracious demeanor was so heartwarming.  I asked if he would like some groceries and he said yes, and we discussed that he didn’t have much space to carry them between his backpack and his duffle bag.  Also, that he didn’t have a can opener, so everything needed to be able to be opened without that.

With those things in mind, I rushed down to the pantry storage area and brought up a big basket of food for him to choose from:

Honey – nope!  I got that out of the pantry the other day and I still have some!

Tuna with a flip top – YES PLEASE!

Granola bars – yes

Toothpaste – nope, I have dentures!

Foil pack of tuna – oh yes!

Cowboy Beans – oh no, those are too spicy I tried them once

Applesauce -no, that should go to a family with a baby

Can of soup with flip top – no, another family will need that more than me

And on and on we went through the items

I have had interactions with people experiencing homelessness at the pantry before, but here is where this one went different.  The man, Christopher, asked if he could put some dollar bills under the labels of cans in the pantry. 

This man doesn’t have a kitchen.

He doesn’t have a can opener.

But he wanted to share what he has with others.

The epitome of giving.

As he pulled out some one-dollar bills.  I said “No, no, please save your money.  But your idea of hiding bills in with the food is so fun!  I will hide some money in there!  Thank you for the idea!”

But Christopher said, “Now don’t say no to my blessings!!!!”. 

So he, a street preacher, and I, a pantry shop keep, walked on over to the pantry.  He figured out a good system to squeezing dollar bills in behind labels, leaving the money visible only under the can.  We hope that the people who come for the food do not see the money until they get home.  We giggled at the idea that someone might see ONE can with money, then rip all of the labels off the other cans hoping to find more!!

As we talked he preached of love and joy.  He told me that many people in our country have physical houses, but are homeless because the houses are not filled with love.  Now that’s the kind of church I can get behind.

My new friend Christopher.  I misunderstood his name the first time he said it and thought his name was Christian.  He loved that and thought it was a huge compliment.

Two other grocery related Kindness Activist things have happened this weekend.


Right after the story about the Kindness Yard Sale ran on the CBS Evening News on Friday, messages and friend requests started popping in from people I don’t know.  One of the messages said this:

“Hello.  I’m (___).  Can you please help me with a few groceries for my family?  Please.  I recently lost my job due to the pandemic and I take care of my 80 year old mother as well.  Anything will help and be greatly appreciated.  I am still waiting on my unemployment, hopefully next week.  All of this caught me completely off guard.  Anything will help and be greatly appreciated.  If not, I completely understand.”

I saw his message pop in and replied.  We chatted a bit and I asked him where he lived.  Within a half an hour, I had sent an electronic grocery gift card to a local store so that he could get some food.  The next day he wrote back, “Just wanted to tell you we got groceries.  Thank you again.  God bless you.  Mom says thank you.”

It wasn’t much, $75.  But I was only able to meet him because the news did the story.  I am so happy that the attention of the news ended up bringing him and his mother food for their bellies. 

Kindness Activist funds spent - $75


And finally, a neighbor contacted me today to ask if I could use some SALMON for the Little Free Yellow Pantry.  She had some frozen and wanted to donate it.  We no longer have an extra refrigerator and freezer for the pantry, but salmon sounded like such a great donation that I told her to bring it on over and squished it into our personal freezer. 

Well, about two hours later another neighbor contacted me and explained that she was low on food.  Her car is broken, so transportation to the grocery store is difficult, and funds are low. 

It is HARD to reach out and ask for help.  And I was honored she was willing to be vulnerable and come to me.  After checking on likes/dislikes, I loaded up 4 grocery bags from the storage area for the Little Free Yellow pantry, then ran to the grocery store to buy perishables.  So, you guessed it, that salmon found a new home!!!  A grateful home where it will be cooked with care and enjoyed!!

These tasty groceries were added to the salmon and items from the Little Free Yellow Pantry

The woman later posted a very gracious thank you in our local group:

“Just wanted to say I am very grateful for you Susan Thompson-Gaines and the food pantry. Got some groceries today because of it. So, if you have donated, I appreciate you very much. Miss Susan is the epitome of an amazing neighbor. She brought food to me within an hour of me messaging her today (cars been out of service for weeks now).   I used to be embarrassed to let people see I need things sometimes...especially food. But I've come to terms that I need help sometimes and I shouldn't be ashamed of asking for help if I need it. I feel blessed to be able to live in this community. And for "My neighbors" not judging me.  It makes me feel a little more open than i would be normally.  I just feel like I wanna be an open book, cause I know I’m not the only person in life doing it alone and feeling like, ‘Damn - can I just catch a break?’ I appreciate you guys so much.”

Kindness funds spent - $67.90

So, I say –

To all who have donated food to the Little Free Yellow Pantry – thank you.

To those who donated items to sell at the Kindness Yard Sale – thank you.

To those who shopped at the sale – thank you.

And to those who donated funds – thank you.

Together, we are spreading kindness. 

If you would like to contribute funds:

Venmo - @susan-thompson-gaines

PayPal – thompsongaines@msn.com 

If you would like to contribute pantry items, we currently need:

Honey

Maseca

Pasta

Pasta sauce

Canned vegetables

Canned fruit

Single servings of cereal

Cereal

3 or 4 can openers 

Monday, October 4, 2021

WHIRLWIND

 What a magical world we live in.

 The last couple of days have been a whirlwind. 

 I spoke with a producer of the CBS news segment “On the Road” with Steve Hartman.  She had reached out right after the Kindness Yard Sale asking if I might be willing to talk with her about doing a piece about the sale.  I put off replying because I was exhausted, but finally sat down to talk with her and after that everything was like a single snowflake that rolled and rolled into an avalanche in the span of 2 days.  Not only did they want to DO a piece, they wanted to do it in 2 days!  And they wanted me to do a “big act of kindness that they could film”.

It was an awkward position to be put in…  I wanted to do the story – it would bring more attention to kindness and perhaps bring in support for Kindness Activist.  But most of the kind acts I do with the project happen ORGANICALLY.  They are not forced and usually not PLANNED.  But I brainstormed to come up with ideas…

After I rejected all of my own ideas, David came up with a brilliant one:  PUT QUARTERS IN THE LAUNDRY MACHINES AT THE LOCAL LAUNDROMAT!  I.  Loved.  It!!!  Of course, I embellished it…  Buy laundry detergent, maybe cupcakes, and show up at the laundromat and declare loudly it was FREE LAUNDRY DAY!!!  Then stay a couple of hours chatting, dancing around, and eating cupcakes with people while their clothes washed.

And then I thought of a back-up plan:  buy grocery store gift cards and floral bouquets.  Board buses as they stopped near our home and present the presents to bus drivers to THANK THEM for being so magnificent and driving all through Covid.

I was really pleased with both ideas.

But the producer of the show was not…

So, I worked to think of yet ANOTHER idea….  I saw a blurb on Facebook for a local high school asking for donations of homecoming dresses.  Hmmm…  Wheels turning…  What if I could take a student SHOPPING for a homecoming outfit!!??  Wouldn’t that be fun?  I mean, I am ALL FOR used clothing (go Goodwill!!!), but everybody deserves a new outfit once in a while, too.

After much angst and worry, I was finally hooked up with the name of a student whose parent was willing to let them be picked up from school by a stranger and filmed for national tv… 

In fact, I almost had TWO students!  I was working super hard to get SOMETHING they could film, and just about got a student from two different sources.  In the end, one backed out due to shyness (and their parent not being thrilled about them missing some school).

This all sounds like a whirlwind, right????

But that is only the whirl, not the wind.

While this was all happening, I was sicker than I have been in a couple of years.  The world was spinnnning and I had shivers and was afraid I had, you know, Covid.  (Not to worry, 2 tests came back negative!)

I got a flat tire and had to leave my car in the Trader Joe’s parking lot overnight.

And a refugee family from Afghanistan moved into our basement apartment and will live with us for a month.

Eeerrrrr – rewind.

What?

Yes, you read that right.  We have 5 new people living in our home.

And I couldn’t be happier.

I am so honored to host these guests.  It is a mother, father, adult son, adult daughter, and young daughter from Kabul.  They got out recently and we were lucky to end up being their hosts.  I am so grateful for this opportunity.

So back to the tv filming.  The producer, host, and a cameraman arrived at our house early this morning.  I had warned our new guests that this was going to take place – the father joked that he might be in the background on American television.  😊 

But at the same time as I was prepping for the interview (how much did year one of the Kindness Yard Sale bring in??  What kind acts have we done???) – we were trying to help our new friends enroll their beautiful 8- year-old daughter in school and make sure they have the supplies they need.  To say the candle was burning at both ends is putting it mildly. 

During a quick break in “hand modeling” filming, I peeked in our backyard and saw the most beautiful sight I have seen in a very, very long time.  David, Steve (the star of the show), and the father of the Afghan family were sitting outside playing a card game.  A card game that the man from Afghanistan was teaching the 2 American men.  It was the most genuine cultural exchange that I have witnessed in oh so long.  What an HONOR, what a GIFT.  To share a game from your homeland is to share a treasure.  I quickly snuck this photo and realized that if nothing else came of the day, THIS MOMENT was enough to have witnessed.


 After a full morning of filming and answering questions at our home, it was time to PICK UP THE STUDENT I HAD NEVER MET at her high school.  I was a bit nervous, but also excited!  I wasn’t so much excited about the filming of it all, but the chance to meet a new person and take her shopping!!  It was funny – we had a Go-Pro camera attached to the passenger side window of the car as we drove to the mall, and before we had driven one block, I messed it up by raising the window.  Oops!

I won’t spoil the news about the filming and the show here.  But I will say that I feel like the student and I made a genuine connection, and that I hope she keeps in touch with me.  I had such a fabulous time talking with her, giggling, and shopping.  Once the tv crew left we set about really shopping!!  She was the perfect person to treat to a Homecoming outfit (and more).  She was humble, kind, grateful, and wise.  I would love to hang out with her again (and look forward to seeing her looking gorgeous in her homecoming photos!).

So yeah, what a strange magical world we live in. 

Aren’t we all so very lucky?

Kindness Yard Sale funds spent:

Many toiletries, supplies, beds, and bedding for family that just moved to America – $356.81

Dress, shoes, bra, necklace, purse, necklace, earrings, nails, and nail polish for Homecoming outfit – $165.63

Toy and card for new nephew in Guatemala that my new friend I took shopping has not met yet – $34.96

Gift certificate and card for very hardworking mom of new friend I took shopping – $30.96

Gift certificate for girl who couldn’t go on the televised shopping adventure today – $100

Honor of being involved in a day like today - PRICELESS

P.S. – please tune in to CBS Evening News to see the story about the Kindness Yard Sale.  It will air this Friday, October 8th at 6:30 PM Eastern. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Support From Joe

I have loved Trader Joe's for years.  I mean, loved...  Like, loved so much that in 2015 I embarked on a ridiculous project to review one Trader Joe's product EVERY.  SINGLE.  DAY. For a whole entire year!  And I did it!!!  That Trader Joe's review blog (like at bottom) now has well over a million hits.  Looks like I am not the only person who loves Trader Joe's.

I didn't think my love for TJ's could get any deeper, but recently it has.  A woman from our local TJ's contacted me and asked if there might be a way for her store to help out the Little Yellow Free Pantry!!!  As you can expect, I was so excited.  I do not really like asking for help, and I am not that great at marketing.  So the fact that THEY reached out to ME was amazing!

I met with that woman and the manager of the store.  We talked about the Little Yellow Free Pantry, my vision for it, and how it serves the community.  I explained that I really feel that everyone deserves good food (and a tasty treat sometimes, too).  We talked about how diverse the people who access the pantry are - families, people experiencing homelessness, immigrants...  It is open to everyone, no judgement.

And they GOT IT.  Like, they felt the same way I do (which is not surprising when I think about it, Trader Joe's as a corporation is so open minded and great about giving back to the communities they serve).  

So here we are!  They have agreed to do a trial of supporting the Little Free Yellow Pantry!  I am thrilled.  They donated supplies that are in high demand - pasta sauce, honey, soup, beans (Cowboy beans, I need to buy some of my own and try them, that's a product I haven't tasted yet), and canned chicken.  And BAGS so that I can put pantry visitor's shopping in sturdy bags.  

Color me grateful.  

Their support will not replace community donations for the pantry, obviously.  Kind and generous neighbors keep it stocked with all sorts of amazing food that visitors are so thankful for.  

If you are considering a donation to the Little Yellow Free Pantry, items we are currently low on (last week of September 2021) are:

  • rice
  • single servings of Mac and Cheese
  • boxes of Mac and Cheese
  • single servings of cereal
  • boxes/bags of cereal
  • single serving bottles of water
  • cake mixes
  • cake frosting
  • canned vegetables
  • single servings fruit cups
  • bags of sugar
  • Maseca (flour)
  • salt
  • pepper
If you are in the metro Washington DC area, pantry donations can be left in the plastic bin on our front porch.  If you are not local but would like to contribute, donations are always accepted.  Venmo is @susan-thompson-gaines and PayPal is @thompsongaines@msn.com. 
  
Thank you Trader Joe's.  And THANK YOU  community.  Knowing that visitors can stop by anytime day or night and get food that is nourishing and filling makes my heart happy.  It truly takes a village, and I am proud to be a part of this one.

Link to my Trader Joe's review blog:  Trader Joe's 365





Sunday, September 12, 2021

Beach Party, Welcome to America, and MORE

I have been SO busy with preparing for the next Kindness Activist fundraiser, the 3rd annual yard sale, that I have been remiss in sharing how some of previously raised funds have been used!  Let’s fix that right now, shall we?  I am going to take a break from sorting and hanging and such to share some KINDNESS STORIES!  Here we go!

Instead of “saving the best for last”, I am going to start with the story of a Kindness event that I really enjoyed!  Of course, one is not “better” than any other, because kindness of all forms makes the world a better place – but this one was super sweet.

After my mom died, my dad remarried.  He has passed away now, too, and his wife now lives in a memory care home in Omaha, Nebraska.  I have always enjoyed talking with seniors, they have good stories to share!  And I like that places like where she lives have activities and events for the residents.  So, I decided to host a VITUAL BEACH PARTY for them! 

I was in Florida at the time and naively thought, “This should be easy!  I can just “bring them to the beach with me” somehow.  Long distance.  Piece of cake!!”.  I actually thought that maybe this event could be a trial run and I could somehow host virtual beach parties with other Alzheimer’s patients or hospice patients – people who may have a hard time getting to the actual beach, but would enjoy it.

So, after speaking with the activities coordinator to set up a time and date (she sounded as excited as I was!) I set about ordering beach supplies for the home.  I wanted the residents to be able to see the ocean (virtually via Zoom) but also somehow feel as if they were there.  So, I ordered funny sunglasses.  Leis.  Pretty straws with pink flamingos on them.  Seashells.  Small beach balls.  A kiddie pool.  Tiny water guns.  Bubbles.  Beach buckets and shovels, and KINETIC BEACH SAND for them to play with in their buckets! 

I had thought of everything, right??

Except, these were people with Alzheimer’s and other memory issues.  GOING to the beach in real life would be one thing, but doing it VIRTUALLY proved to be a bit confusing for them! 

My sister, partner, and I got to the beach early to set up and figure out the technology (thank goodness we had a cell signal at the beach).  We waited a while and finally the staff member at the home connected with us on Zoom.  But the technology was far from perfect…  They could see US, but we couldn’t see THEM!  Haha. 

So here we were on the beach – ready to build a castle “with them”, go in the water “with them”, dip our toes in the sand “with them” – but we could not see them!  Nor could we HEAR them over the sound of the waves crashing…

Time to improvise!!  We just went on with the event with the assumption that they could see us.  “Hi, welcome to the beach!!!  Would you like to follow me to the ocean and we can dip our toes in??”.  We built a sand castle, watched it get destroyed by a wave, swam, found some shells (shhh, we had “hidden” them so we could easily find them on camera…), and generally chatted.

It was fun, but a bit stressful.  I later got an email from the woman at the center who said, It was great!  Thank you so much for doing this!  Our residents had a blast… The ones who didn’t understand still loved all the goodies you sent!  😊 “

So that was a relief!  And they posted some adorable photos of the residents “at the beach” so we finally got to see that YES, there were people on the other end of the Zoom call. 

The ladies having fun "at the beach"


Something tells me that may be a VIRGIN pina colada...

Ahhh, a relaxing afternoon at the beach

They also repurposed some of the decorations and sand that we had sent by making them into decorations!  Isn’t that great?

Reduce, reuse, recycle!
This clever table decoration was made reusing
the kinetic sand, pretty straw, and shells from
the beach party!

All in all, the money was wisely spent.  But am I ready to replicate it at other care facilities?  Let’s wait until next summer to think about that…

Beach party from our vantage point - "Which way do I turn my 
cell phone??  I can't HEAR them over the waves!!"
 

Amount spent: $236.39


A neighbor posted in a Facebook group that she was looking for coffee pods for the coffee maker in the teacher's lounge of the school she teaches at.  Well, let’s be honest.  Teachers have to spend their own money for way too many things already – mainly classroom supplies – so the least a school can do is provide them with good coffee, right? 

But, sigh, in this instance the teachers were supplying the coffee.  AND THAT’S WHERE KINDNESS ACTIVIST COMES IN!  This is just the kind of need that Kindness Activist funds are good for!  Teachers deserve to be applauded and spoiled a bit, right?

So, I talked with the woman who posted and she chose which types of coffee pods to get.  Amazon to the rescue – and now the teachers have a bit of coffee.

Amount spent$29.51


In a related story, instead of coffee, this one is about TEA.

Many of the Afghan refugees who had to hurriedly leave their homeland are being relocated to the metro DC area, where we live.  The communities they are moving to are being so supportive!  Apartments are being secured.  Furniture and clothing are being donated.  These people are arriving with nearly nothing but are being welcomed with open arms.

A woman in our community contacted a charity and was assigned a refugee family to help.  She crowdsourced the neighbors and boy did they come through!  The new family arriving must’ve felt overwhelmed by the warm welcome!  Their entire apartment was furnished with donations, I think, and food from the Little Yellow Free Pantry helped to fill their shelves. 

But as I thought about the concept of being forced to leave a homeland, I realized that no matter what material things were waiting for you in the new land, it would never be like HOME.  I tried to think of something I could do to bring a tiny bit of the comfort of home to families arriving, and I settled on TEA.

Tea plays an important role in many cultures.  It is not only a drink, it is a tradition.  So, I asked around to people in the area that are from Afghanistan to find out which tea would be reminiscent of home for the new arrivals.  Turns out it is this one:


I ordered 8 fancy tins so that it could be shared with 8 arriving families.  I hope that they will drink a cup and smile remembering what used to be, and be happy for all that is to come here, in their new home.

Amount spent -  $125.26


Ok, last story for this entry.  I didn’t plan it this way, but I guess it relates to the story of welcoming new immigrants to America, too.

We noticed to a flag flying in Florida was in rough shape.  It was faded and ripped and did not seem vibrant enough to reflect the patriotic spirit that we know that home owners have. 

Sad, tired old flag
But, like their flag, the homeowners ae going through a difficult time.  They are both out of work and one is suffering through a very hard period of grieving.  So I thought that Kindness Activist funds would be a perfect way to brighten their spirits and their flag.

We purchased a nice, brand new flag and left it with a note on their porch.  And, lo and behold, the next time we looked at that flag pole, the battered flag had been replaced by the clean and crisp new one. 

Beautiful new flag

Amount spent - $24.98

Monday, September 6, 2021

$4 Of Kindness

This post is not an accounting of how Kindness Activist money has been spent, but rather an amazing tale of how some money was raised.

A Deaf family lives in our neighborhood.  I don’t get to see them often, but I love it when they stop by.  They have two little children who are adorable and I enjoy chatting with them.  I am an ASL/English interpreter, so use ASL often, but only with adults.  I mainly interpret in corporate settings, which means big words and lots of acronyms.  But these little kids come over with their bright smiles and teeny tiny hands signing and it just makes me smile SO BIG! 

Both children have cochlear implants (devices to help them use the hearing they have).  Given that, they usually do not sign but rather use spoken English.  But when they come visit us, I sign with them!  Last year they could sign some but were much more advanced in English than ASL.  But last week when they came to visit, they were signing with me!  They could understand my signs even when I did not speak English and would reply in ASL instead of spoken English.  It was so fun chatting! 

Which leads me to the main point of our conversation…

Meet Brian.  Isn’t he adorable???  He is 6 years old.

 


He knows all about the Kindness Activist work.  He came to the Summer Pop-Up for Kindness this summer and blasted everyone with water guns and played in the sprinkler.

The other day Brian’s mom Katie told the kids that they were going to clean out their toys and donate some to the Kindness Yard Sale to raise money for kindness.  They set about to work.  But Brian ALSO put some money in his pocket (or fist?  I am not sure)…  And not just any money, not money he had gotten for doing chores or allowance.  This is money he EARNED. 

 His mom told me that he had come inside the house recently and told her that he had, “Started a business!”.  Here is what the little entrepreneur did:

HE SET UP A STAND TO SELL COLORED POPSICLE STICKS!  Brilliant!


His mom explained that he had a sticky note at his stand by the popsicle sticks that said “$3 or $1 or $10”.  She said, “So funny… but ambitious!  He got a surprise when a mystery customer left some Euros in the cup, then a friend stopped by, bought some and said he would give them to his cat.

So when it was time to drop off donations for the Kindness Yard Sale, Brian grabbed the proceeds from his business and brought them with him.  His mom explained to him that the sale had not started yet, they were only bringing things for the sale, which would be later in the month.  But Brian told her that he wanted to donate the money…  And he wouldn’t take no for an answer!

As he jumped out of the van he handled me his crumpled up dollar bills.  I counted out $4!!  I, like his mom, explained it wasn’t time for the sale yet.  I told him to keep his money and use it to buy things at the sale!!  But NO, Brian was here to donate money to the cause!!!  He insisted I take the money! 

So I took it, added it to the accounting file, and traded it for 2 popsicle ice pops (one for him and one for his sister). 

Isn’t that the sweetest thing ever?  He donated his hard earned money.  It is another example of ,“People give what they can”, in this case, even children.

As we chatted Brian and his sister looked around at donated items a bit.  I showed them a huge pink Crayola crayon (about as tall as he is) that is a bank.  He loved it and wondered if he could buy it at the sale.  As they got back in the van, he found another dollar (probably dropped into his car seat!) and wanted to hand it to me to donate.  “NO BRIAN!  SAVE THAT FOR THE KINDNESS YARD SALE!  Maybe you can buy that pink crayon bank!!”.  “How much is it??” he asked excitedly.  I reminded him at this sale, people pay what they would like.  He held up his crumpled bill and said, “ONE DOLLAR??”.

Yes, Brian.  One dollar.  Your dollar (and the 4 others you donated) warm my heart and remind me that children are watching.  They are learning.  And they will make our world a better place.

Brian's donation.  See the red smudges on one of the bills?  :)  I am guessing 
that is from his popsicle stick business...


 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Kindness Yard Sale 2021 - Here It Comes!

 In December 2015 I had an idea:

WRITE ABOUT ACTS OF KINDNESS.

Kindness witnessed.  Kindness received.  And kindness given.

I called the project KINDNESS ACTIVIST.

It doesn’t seem so revolutionary, does it?   Talking about kindness. 

But the thing is, in America, it kind of is…

Many of us were raised with the ideas that:

1.       Kind acts need to be “random” (hence that acronym “RAOK”)

2.      Talking about kind things that you did is bragging and “negates” that kindness, because it is presumed that you only did it to brag about it afterward.

I set about to flip those notions.  I set about to spread kindness a new way, the KINDNESS ACTIVIST way! 

The term “activist” is defined like this:  noun, an especially active, vigorous advocate of a cause, especially a political cause.

Yes!  I am a vigorous advocate of KINDNESS!  I hunt for it.  I appreciate it.  And, whenever I can, I SPREAD IT!  I also recognize others who talk about kindness by presenting them with official Kindness Activist buttons. 


I am a firm believer that spreading kindness does not require money.
  Holding a door open for a stranger – free kindness.  Helping a lost child find his parent in a store – free kindness.  Sharing the vegetables grown in your garden – free kindness.

However, some acts of kindness do require money.  And that is why, in the summer of 2019, I started to fundraise for Kindness Activist.  The main source of funds has come from Kindness Yard Sales.  I have hosted 2 official Kindness Yard Sales and one Summer Pop-Up Kindness Sale.  Those events, and generous donations that have come in between them, have raised much more money than I ever dreamed they could.  And each and every penny raised is used to spread kindness. 

Money has been used to buy supplies for teachers’ classrooms.  Money has been used to treat nurses at the height of the pandemic.  Money has been used to gift a pregnant mother a fetal heartrate monitor so that her husband (who was not allowed into her appointments due to Covid) could hear their baby’s heart.  Money was used to treat 116 kids who wrote letters to the North Pole gifts from Santa and to fill a huge life-size calendar for 3 different countdowns to events.  Money has been used to buy groceries for neighbors in need and help pay rent when it was due and the people couldn’t pay it.  Money was used to buy clean new socks for homeless people.  Money has been used to launch the Little Yellow Free Pantry outside our home, which helps supply neighbors and passersby food and drinks.  And on and on and on…

I am very careful in choosing the kind acts.  The money used to pay for them is not my money – it is Kindness Activist money, and has been donated by many, many people with different beliefs and values.  The one thing all donors have in common is a belief in KINDNESS. 

I write about each act of kindness in my blog and detail how much was spent so that it is transparent where the dollars go.  You can see my blog at:  https://kindnessactivist.blogspot.com/   

It has over 71,000 hits (views), meaning people are reading about the kindness and hopefully being inspired to go out and spread more themselves!  I firmly believe that hearing about, reading about, kindness inspires you to go into the world and spread it, too.  Trust me, it is true, it works!




I am now gearing up for KINDNESS YARD SALE 2021.  It’s so exciting!!!  Neighbors will hopefully fill our porches, carport, and yard with donations – furniture, sporting goods, kitchen supplies, tools, clothing and shoes of all sizes, art, toys…  No items will have price tags as everything is PAY WHAT YOU WISH, knowing everything you give goes toward kindness.  And, if the sale is anything like the others, we will be overwhelmed by the response and by the kindness.

Kindness Yard Sale 2021 – September 18 and 19 starting at 9:00 am.  On the corner of S. Fillmore and 2nd Street in Arlington, Virginia.  Park on S. 2nd Street, wear a mask, and be prepared to shop til you drop. 

Item donations will be accepted starting August 24th.  Monetary donations can be sent to:  PayPal – thompsongaines@msn.com or Venmo - @Susan-Thompson-Gaines.

I look forward to sharing photos and details of this year’s sale!!


 

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Kindness - in Happy Times and in Grief

It’s time for another update on how money raised at the Summer Kindness Pop Up is being used to spread kindness in the world! 

I am part of a very active Facebook group in my community called Buy Nothing (BN). BN groups are hyper local and exist so that neighbors can trade crap for free! I am sure that is not how their mission statement is written, but it is in reality what happens 😊 . If, for example, I have a perfectly good vacuum that I no longer use, I take a photo of it and post it in BN. Then a neighbor who NEEDS a vacuum sees the post, replies that they would like it, and comes and picks it up from my porch. Conversely, if I, say, have one more holiday gift to wrap and have run out of wrapping paper, I can post “Help! Does anyone have enough wrapping paper left to wrap a shirt box??”. A neighbor will see that and reply that they have some, and I will pop over to their house and pick it up for free. The system is brilliant! It not only keeps things out of the landfill, but it has been a terrific source of friendships for the members of my local BN! I highly recommend you find the one in your area and join! 

Anyway, that background on BN is so that you will understand this first use of Kindness Activist funds. I noticed in my BN group that WATER TABLES for kids were a hot commodity. Whenever anyone listed one, many people commented that they wanted it. I saw that as a supply issue – there were simply not enough water tables in my neighborhood!!! 

So, I posted this in the group: “We do not have kids, and WATER TABLES were not a thing was I was little. However, I see they are in demand here, and I would like to gift someone with one that I will purchase with Kindness Yard Sale funds. This is the one that looks good to me (good reviews and pretty colors!): (link to water table) I will not necessarily be giving to the first person who responds. Will choose by the evening of July 4th and order it to be delivered directly to the recipient. #BuyNothingRocks #ItTakesAVillage #WaterTablesLookFun “ 

Lots of people replied – some to say water tables are great, and some to put their name in the hat to get one. I ended up choosing 2 families and getting 2 tables. I love that it was all done thru BN, because I know that when the children they were purchased for outgrow them, they will be listed in the group and find their way to a new home. One of the mom’s who got a water table said this, “I told my oldest one all about you and the kindness process you have going on. He was very, very grateful! He said he will keep you in his prayers and also thanked God for this and all the people that contributed.” Isn’t that so sweet?? 

Playing with their new water table

TOTAL SPENT: $170 


If you have ever lost a loved one and been responsible for any of the post-death arrangements, you will understand this story. 

When someone dies, arrangements continue long after picking out the casket, choosing the writing on the headstone, and the memorial service. There are cell phones to be cancelled. Cable tv to be turned off. Insurance agents to contact. The list is long, depressing, and very daunting. 

So, the other day when we were in the DMV to transfer the title of a vehicle, when I heard the young woman at the window next to us, I knew Kindness Activist money would need to be used. The woman was at the DMV to get a title for a trailer that her father, now deceased, owned. 

He must have had many vehicles and been a frequent customer at the DMV, because the employees there knew him. The young woman explained that he had died, and the employee working with her said, “I am sorry to hear that” or something similar. But after that quick acknowledgement of his passing, it was business as usual. “Do you have this form? Please sign here. We need to photocopy that…” etc. 

We had to run to the bank to get cash to finish our transaction but before we ducked out, I asked if the young woman would have to pay anything for what she was getting done. The DMV employee said that yes, unfortunately she would. “Please add that to our total,” I said. 

The young woman looked at me with tears in her eyes. I explained that I, too, had lost my father. That I understood how hard it was to keep it all together and tie up the loose ends. We looked one another in the eyes – hers watery and sad- and understood the grief that only daughters who have lost their fathers know. I wished I could hug her, she needed a hug, but Covid prevented that. But she knew she was not alone. 

TOTAL SPENT: $125.25 


A woman in our Buy Nothing group posted this simple message: 

"In search of some sort of giant tarp or plastic sheet that could be used for a water slide! Or if anyone has any unused water balloons We are doing a young adult water games day for our church so I’m trying to collect supplies. Thank you so much!!"

Well, that seemed like a Kindness Activist request if ever I have seen one! Because let’s face it, water days are FUN, and especially if you have the right supplies!! 

I jumped on Amazon and ordered a waterslide, water guns, water balloons, and bubble wands. That was a fun “shopping trip”. Everything was mailed directly to the woman planning the event. She was so excited (as was I!). 

The event was yesterday and went really well!! She posted some fun videos on Facebook of the young adults having a blast. Then she posted this thank you in the BN group: “Due to the kindness and generosity of the Kindness Yard Sale and Susan Thompson-Gaines, our young adult group at church was able to have an amazing water day event yesterday! Through this group, we were gifted a water slide, water guns, bubbles, and TONS of water balloons!!! 

The church group has been really important for young adults in the area during Covid in helping support one another mentally, spiritually, and psychologically as many young adults in the area were struggling with isolation and loneliness - especially since many are so far away from their families! The generosity and kindness shown from everyone on BuyNothing has been so encouraging, and it enabled us to have such an awesome time for young adults to connect with one another and just have fun! So blessed to be a part of this community and thankful for the Kindness Yard Sale and all the wonderful things that have come from it!

P.S. If there are any young adults who are in need of community, support, encouragement and friends, don’t hesitate to message me and I can help connect you to the young adults at Capital Life church 

“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” 2 Corinthians 9:10-11” 

TOTAL SPENT - $149.05 


A neighbor’s refrigerator went out and her landlord was not replacing it. She found a used one (free or cheap, I can’t remember) and someone was kind enough to deliver it to her. 

But have you ever had your fridge go out and had to replace the contents? It is not cheap… So, money from the Kindness Activist fund was used to stock her up!! Doesn’t this cart of food look fabulous?? 

Of course she needed ICE CREAM - don't we all?

TOTAL SPENT - $79.91 


Another neighbor was running a bit low on groceries, so non-perishables were collected from the Little Yellow Free Pantry outside our home, and perishables were delivered to her. Having food – good food – is a critical part of life. And with so many people losing their jobs during Covid, getting food to fill your cupboards and refrigerator is a luxury for many. 

TOTAL SPENT - $58.66 


And finally, the last purchase for this update. 

We were at Target in the self-check out area. When we finished, I saw a woman with a baby in a front pack, the baby covered by a pink blanket. The woman was purchasing baby things – she had a swing in the cart she had already rung up and she was holding some outfits in her hands. 

I understood the “dance” she was doing – it was the “should I really get this?” dance. Sometimes that is a “This is more than I should spend…” dance, and sometimes it is a “Do I really need this??” dance. We stood quietly and waited as she made her decision (GOT THEM!) and prepared to pay. 

That’s when the fun part happened! I popped up next to her and told her I would like to treat her. She was so surprised!! And happy! It turned out her baby Chloe was turning one month old that day. Happy birthday little Chloe. 

Moments like that are so special. To be able to treat someone is an honor. 

TOTAL SPENT - $205.48 


One of the main ideas of Kindness Activist is that when we share stories of kindness – received, given, or witnessed – it inspires others to be kind. And I know for a fact it works! We saw Chloe and her mom walking out of Target and her mom was talking to a friend on the phone, telling them what had just happened. She saw us and asked how to find what we do – I told her about Kindness Activist on Facebook. And later that evening she followed the page. And we heard her tell her friend that she would like to give back. 

See?? It works! If we are not ashamed to talk openly about kindness, we can create ripples. Little kindness ripples. They can be big, or they can be tiny… But ripple after ripple after ripple will spread, and kindness will spread. 

Trust me, it works.